Think two years in jail and four years on probation is too much for someone to spend in jail for growing medical cannabis? Of course you do, you have a heart and a brain.
But federal prosecutors in Montana feel differently, and are pushing to increase the sentences handed down by a District court judge earlier this spring on four medical cannabis growers, including a former University of Montana quarterback.
According to The Missoulan, federal prosecutors weren’t happy with the two-year prison sentence for former Grizzlies quarterback Jason Washington and are pushing to have it more than doubled by an appellate judge.
Washington was one of 33 people arrested during raids in Montana in 2011. Prosecutors are also pushing to increase the punishments for three other people indicted on cultivation charges.
Even though judges are appointed to weigh heavy decisions like sentencing, the U.S. Attorney thinks he knows how to do it better. In Associated Press interview in May, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said his office occasionally likes to play both prosecutor and judge in cases like this – namely when the judge doesn’t follow the U.S. Attorney’s recommendations for punishments:
“There are instances where we don’t necessarily agree with the sentence, and what we can do is have the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals review those sentences to see if they are within the statutory framework or proper, given the circumstances and evidence,” he said.
Washington’s attorney, Kwame Manley, disagrees: “”We believe the judge got it right in sentencing Mr. Washington. This is a medical marijuana case. We all understand federal law prohibits medical marijuana, but Mr. Washington does not deserve to be in prison for the amount of time that the federal government is asking.”
Washington was one of two cases that went to jury trials. Thirty-one other cases were settled with plea deals.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is also appealing the sentences of Randy Leibenguth, Lucas Mulvaugh and Paul Schmidt. Leibenguth was recommended for nearly six years in prison but was sentenced to just three months. Mulvaugh served 45 days in prison after being recommended for eight years, and Schmidt was sentenced to a year after prosecutors pushed for nearly six.